Jicama (also called yambean) is a type of bulbous root vegetable that many people describe as being a cross between an apple and a turnip.
Jicama is composed of about 86 percent to 90 percent water, so it’s naturally low in calories, natural sugars and starch — and, therefore, it has a low score on the glycemic index and fits most diets, including the vegan, Paleo and the ketogenic diet plan. It’s also a good source of immune system-boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fibre.
Jicama’s fibre contains a beneficial type of prebiotic fructan carbohydrate called oligofructose inulin. Because it’s indigestible within the human digestive tract and ferments in the gut, inulin is considered to have zero calories, yet it benefits the digestive organs and, therefore, your entire body (including the immune system) in a few different ways. Inulin acts like a prebiotic once it reaches the intestines, which means it helps probiotics (or “good bacteria” living within the GI tract) do their job best.
As a source of valuable prebiotics, jicama’s unique fibre molecules help balance the growth of good-to-bad microbes residing within the intestines and colon. A very large percentage of the immune system — over 75 percent — is actually stored with your GI tract, so proper immune functioning depends a lot on a delicate balance between the bacteria populating your microbiota.
Like many vegetables, jicama has a high water and nutrient density, and is otherwise largely made of different types of carbohydrate molecules. Oligofructose inulin, which makes up a good percentage of the fibre found in jicama, is linked to improved cardiovascular health and the ability to lower cholesterol naturally.
Water and fibre-rich vegetables are recommended for anyone battling digestive issues because they’re hydrating and provide fibre, essential electrolytes and nutrients that support intestinal and gut health.
Aside from its prebiotic properties, jicama is also an excellent source of antioxidants, including vitamin C. Just one cup of raw jicama provides over 40 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C is a crucial antioxidant that scavenges free radical damage and controls inflammation. Eating plenty of vitamin C foods helps control inflammation, which is important for keeping oxidative stress levels lower and protecting against cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.
Called a “Mexican turnip” or yambean in some parts of the world, jicama’s oligofructose inulin helps keep bones strong because it enhances mineral retention, suppresses the turnover rate of bone loss and helps with the absorption of calcium into bones. It also supplies important nutrients like potassium, magnesium and manganese that are needed for proper bone mineralisation and protecting against bone loss or osteoporosis into older age.